Shop Class 101: Kindergarten Redux

I remember clearly my very first shop project in Advanced Housing at Algonquin College. We were tasked with building a preacher’s block and it was a pass/fail assignment. Sawing, planing, chisel work, and sanding were all to be accomplished without the aid of power anything. After several classes my block looked unmistakably sad. It was irregularly shaped and the many gaps were crammed with a mixture of glue and sawdust in a shabby attempt to make them appear more wood-like. I smelled a pity pass. I felt frustrated, sweaty and a bit panicked. What the hell, I wondered, had I gotten myself into?

But I took that preacher’s block home and called my four kids over. “Look”, I said. “This is my first project and I think it was the worst one in my class.” It reminded me of the ashtray I made for my mother in kindergarten and I suddenly felt a lot of empathy for the eight little hands around me whose growing skills don’t always match their vision. “But I’m learning something new and it will take time, patience and a lot of practice to get good at it. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but big people can’t do everything.”

I admit I’m still a little light on the patience thing but it has been an incredible rush to watch my skills improve as I repeatedly tried and messed up and tried yet again. Now I’m just that much quicker and, most importantly, can brainstorm the workarounds when things don’t go according to plan. I keep my wonky preacher’s block in plain view to remind me of the beauty of being in the game, of putting myself out there and the pure pleasure and freedom found in the act of learning. An invaluable bit of knowledge, I’d say, for a classic Type A who always expects her skills to match her vision.

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